LINCOLN — A superb start on the mound. Runs in clusters. Even a rare ejection. The finale for yet another Nebraska winning weekend was anything but dull.
Right-hander Shay Schanaman struck out a career-high 11 batters in a start as dazzling as sun-splashed Haymarket Park on Sunday and the offense pounded out 14 hits to shove past Maryland 14-3 in the decisive conclusion to their three-game set.
The crowd of 3,188 roared loudest in the seventh inning with the Huskers holding a 7-1 lead. A Maryland single and three straight batters hit by pitches forced in a run and ignited a heated discussion between NU coach Will Bolt and home-plate umpire Glen Nelson. It ended with the second-year skipper slamming his clipboard into the dugout and becoming the first Husker coach to be ejected since Darin Erstad was tossed against Kansas State in 2014.
Bolt appeared to argue that Terps batters had been repeatedly leaning into balls — they were plunked seven times in the series.
“Just saw something that I thought that we needed to have our guys’ back for,” Bolt said. “That’s all I’ll say.”
Nebraska (15-6) didn’t need or want the charged inning to win for a 10th time in 12 games and remain alone atop the Big Ten standings. The Huskers chased Maryland right-handed starter Jason Savacool after 1 ⅔ innings thanks to a five-run, seven-hit second frame. RBI knocks came from Luke Roskam, Brice Matthews, Griffin Everitt and Joe Acker in the uprising against the two-time Big Ten Freshman of the Week. Acker and Jaxon Hallmark added run-scoring singles in the fourth as NU extended its lead to 7-1.
But while the Big Ten’s top run-producing offense did what it does, Schanaman delivered the most dominant of his six college starts against the league’s No. 2 scoring team. He hit a batter in the second inning and allowed a two-out solo shot to Chris Alleyne in the third. Otherwise he induced four groundouts and three fly-ball outs in addition to the 11 punchouts before the eventful seventh.
Bolt said Schanaman’s performance was befitting of the “Championship Sunday” approach the team takes in series finales. Tempo, mound presence and command were all there — he didn’t walk anyone and Maryland (10-12) never threatened outside the seventh.
“Shay was absolutely dirty, filthy,” Bolt said. “Whatever adjective you want to use, his stuff was that.”
The Grand Island native and former Husker closer had everything working, from his running two-seam mid-90s fastball to a developing cutter to the wipeout slider. Part of his evolution as a consistent starter, he said, is to remember he has help if needed.
“I know I don’t have to be perfect with our team,” Schanaman said. “We’re going to put up runs, we’re going to play defense, we’re going to do the little things. I wouldn’t want to be in any other position right now with this team.”
The hurler’s last hit batter trimmed the Nebraska lead to 7-2 and left-hander Jake Bunz came on in relief to allow just an RBI groundout from there. Maryland brought the tying run to the plate with two outs but stranded everyone as the leadoff hitter, Alleyne, grounded out to first base.
Clearly stirred from their coach’s ejection, Nebraska hitters poured on the insurance with a seven-run eighth. Spencer Schwellenbach’s RBI triple guaranteed every member of the starting lineup would end with a hit. Consecutive wild pitches also plated runs and a Matthews grand slam to left served as the final exclamation point.
NU reached double figures in scoring for an eighth time this year. Bunz and Caleb Feekin finished out the game with three scoreless stanzas as the Huskers remained atop the league standings ahead of three games at Penn State next weekend.
Bolt said veteran leaders have helped keep NU focused amid the rise to first place and bouncing back from defeats, like Saturday’s 10-7 loss to the Terps. The consistency was on display Sunday — just another day that ends in ‘y’ that the Huskers aim to treat the same.
“Winning is fun,” Schanaman said. “There’s nothing more fun than winning, especially with this group of guys. … It’s good to be back on track.”